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9 Advanced Tricks for iTunes

2011-05-07 10:58
Once upon a time, iTunes was a simple program for managing the music you put on your Apple MP3 player. Now, it's a digital media management juggernaut that can be found on the hard disk drives of just about everyone who owns an iPod, iPad, or iPhone. As iTunes has grown up (we are on version 10.2), it's become more powerful and, consequently, more complicated.

Here are nine tricks that give you power you didn't even know existed, from running iTunes on multiple PCs by sharing or synching files to creating your own customized iPhone ringtones to getting back your apps even after you've had to re-install iTunes on a computer. Share your favorite iTunes tricks in the comments as well, so we can all become media managers with mad skills.

1. Remotely Control iTunes
You can't remotely sync your iTunes library of media with your iPod touch or iPhone or iPad, but you can remotely control iTunes playback via those devices. Download the free Remote app from Apple and fire it up. You'll be given a 4 digit code, which you then enter in iTunes on your PC. Your iDevice will then show your library on your small screen with an interface that looks just like that of the built-in iPod app. Select a track and it will play on your PC via iTunes (which is different from using Home Sharing folders in the iPod app—then the music plays on the portable iDevice).

If you've turned on Home Sharing, you can also enter those credentials in Remote and access all the shared libraries across all the PCs running iTunes on your home network, so you can play music on all of them remotely.

2. Share and Share Alike
Go to the Advanced menu and select Turn on Home Sharing. You'll need to enter your iTunes Store ID (usually your email address) and a password to turn it on. Do the same on other computers (up to 5) in your home with iTunes and you'll soon be able see all the music—and video—from all the computers to playback. This is a perfect way to copy music between two installs of iTunes, even if one is on a Mac and the other is on a Windows PC. You can go into the Preferences in iTunes to select exactly what you want to share.

You can also access those home shared iTunes accounts on an iOS device. Go into the device Settings, select iPod, scroll down to Home Sharing, and enter the same ID and password. When you next enter the iPod app, go to the More button, and if you're on the same home network and iTunes is running on the local PCs, you should get a Shared option in the list. This is a great way to access your 100s of Gigabytes of media on an iDevice that might only have 8 or 16 GB of space available, most of which is probably filled with apps.

3. Synch iTunes Libraries
While you can move files from one iTunes install to another if you turn on sharing, it's up to you to do the copying. With a file synchronization program like Dropbox, Syncplicity, or SugarSync, however, you can make sure all your computers have the same iTunes libraries without lifting a muscle after the initial setup. If you have over 2GB (or 5GB in the case of SugarSync) of files in your Library—and who doesn't—this will cost you. But it can be worth it because your iPhone or iPod touch could then be plugged into any of the PCs sharing the files and will see it as the same library. This is particularly great if you want to sync at work and at home. And best of all, that media is backed up online as well for future catastrophes.

With Dropbox, you'll have to move your iTunes folder into the Dropbox folder; it needs to be in the same place on all your hard drives for iTunes to find it. The copying of files will take a while to go online, but might be slightly faster with the LAN sync function of Dropbox enabled.

The other issue, once the files are copying, is remembering that you can only run one instances of iTunes at a time accessing the library. That means remembering to shut iTunes down manually on each PC when done. LifeHacker came up with some scripts to help automate this process (and thanks to them for this tip).

4. Make iPhone Ringtones
You don't have to pay as much for a music ringtone as you would for the whole track. Do it for free with any music you already have. Find a music track, or any sound, that you like. Right click it, go to Get Info, and select the Options tab. Check off the start time and stop time, and put in the time frame you want—it has to be under 30 seconds. Click OK. Then right click again and select "Create AAC Version."

If you don't see that selection, you'll probably see "Create MP3 version." To fix that, go to Preference, General tab, and select Import Settings. At the top, change the Import Using drop down to say "AAC Encoder." Click OK then go back to the file and right click to get "Create AAC Version."

You'll now see the file listed twice in iTunes. Right click the new one and select "Show in Windows Explorer" (for Windows) or "Show in Finder" (for MacOS). The new file should end in .M4A extension. Change the file name so it ends in .M4R. (R as in ringtone!).

Go back to iTunes. Right click on the file you created and delete it (not just from iTunes, but also send it to the trash or recycle bin.) Drag the .M4R file you renamed to iTunes. Click on Ringtones to the left and you should see it there. Next time you sync your iPhone, it should be available. Then you find the contact you want to get that ring and specify it on in their settings.


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